“I love using surreal ideas to make ordinary reality extraordinary.”
Born Shenyang, Liaoning, 1983
What would ordinary settings look like if the curvature of the space-time continuum became visible on a human scale—if we lived in four dimensions rather than three? Yuan Jia is convinced it would be “magical and exciting”. She likes to imagine that “inert objects might even be able to move and gesture”: a table set for dinner, for example, might suddenly buck like a horse and gallop away. The artist’s impression of that fantastic possibility is Runaway Table and His Duck (2010), which she sees as “a huge toy in curved space”. It’s a toy quite unlike the sci-fi robot her Einsteinian conception might suggest. Yuan Jia carved it entirely by hand from “natural and simple” wood, though doing so was far from easy. She had to learn the finer points of woodworking and basic engineering. Her self-designed ball joints and hinges allow every part of the sculpture, from tabletop to chopsticks, wine glasses and duck legs, to swivel and bend. If the work evokes parallel universes, its form also parallels the dynamics of creation. Just like the runaway table, the human imagination can’t help but kick up its heels and run.